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Wednesday, June 16,2010

The drive for Cesar E. Chavez Avenue

by Kyle Melinn

Let me start with this: I’m all about history. I love that Grand River Avenue was Michigan’s first major east-west artery, connecting Detroit and Grand Rapids before Interstate 96 ever existed.


It’s a beautiful story, Grand River Avenue. An old plank road built atop an Indian trial. Tolls were collected on the road back then. The federal government labeled it U.S. 16 during the infancy of the state’s interstate highway system. It’s Michigan’s version of Route 66.


That said, every street in North Lansing doesn’t need to be named Grand River. A Grand River splits off westbound Oakland under the name "East Grand River Avenue,” but then splits into a North Grand River that then turns left into North Street and becomes another North Grand River that heads to the airport. Meanwhile, the East Grand River dead-ends into Pine.


All the while, 90 percent of Lansing thinks East Lansing and Michigan State University when "Grand River Avenue" is mentioned as an address. ("What? It stops and kinda starts again in Lansing?")


Confusing? Maybe not to those born and raised here. For everyone else? Yes. Me included, and I’ve lived here off and on for 13 years.


The arrangement made some sense when Grand River Avenue was a major artery and the road needed to keep its identity to keep out-of-area travelers from getting lost. But today?


Nobody is taking Grand River Avenue through Lansing. That's what I-496 or Saginaw/Oakland is for.


Anyway you slice it, ending the Grand River Avenue maze in Lansing is an improvement.


Changing the street's name through trendy Old Town from Oakland to Pine after agricultural labor leader Ceser E. Chavez is even better.


Changing the name from Oakland to Pine in memory of Latino America's largest historical figure gives the area a face. It gives Old Town its own identity.


It injects more culture into the city's blooming arts community. It's an enhancement, a reflection of how open we are as a city of our Latino-American brothers and sisters, whose grandfathers and grandmothers settled in North Lansing in the '40s and '50s. It sends the signal that we would allow one of our major streets to be renamed after a most revered historical figures.


Just as African-Americans view the heroics of Martin Luther King Jr. with pride, so too do Latinos embrace Chavez. He stood up for migrant workers when no one else would. He gave workers the dignity, fair wages and proper living conditions they deserved while they were busy raising the food that went on our tables.


For too long, the dreams of the Latino population have been pushed aside. In the 1990s, Lansing voters stepped on the hearts of our fellow citizens when it overturned a City Council decision to rename Grand Avenue in downtown Lansing after Cesar Chavez.


We're hearing the same excuses again this time around. It's going to cost businesses too much money. Too much stationery to replace. Drivers are going to get confused.


This go around, we have a new twist: GPS systems and Mapquest won't be able to figure it out, as if computer programs aren't updated constantly.


In the past, I've heard the argument: Why a street? Can't there be some other recognition? A plaque or a statue or something?


You mean like how Lansing has given token recognition to the home of former civil rights leaders Malcolm X? Does anyone know where it is? How many people even know it exists? Sure, he was controversial, but Malcolm X is a significant part of our history and he actually called Lansing and Mid-Michigan his home during his early years.


No, everybody uses a street. We drive down it. We use its name in daily conversation. It's a daily reminder that we have a strong and proud segment of our population with Latino roots. As a sign of respect and acceptance, it's time to embrace their history by blending it with ours.

Alexander passing hat for Kande

Well, here's a switch. East Lansing Democrat Bob Alexander is holding a debt burner, but it's not for him. It's for a campaign that SHOULD still be going on.


Alexander sent out an e-mail a few days ago to settle the debts of Democratic congressional candidate Kande Ngalamulume, who bailed on his attempt to challenge U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers five months too early. Basically, he built a campaign operation he couldn't afford.


Despite not ever getting a serious look from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Ngalamulume built up a staff of three people plus 10 "low-paid" interns.


The whole thing was run on a shoestring, and apparently the shoestring snapped last week when the longshot campaign that should have been staffed with volunteers and "no-pay" interns couldn't meet payroll.


Now Ngalamulume has moved back to Philadelphia and is looking for a new job, leaving Loyal Bob to clean up this debacle. Isn't it amazing Alexander is stepping up to the plate and covering for this quitter when it's not Bob's mess to clean up?


Alexander did his yeoman's work when he gave the Democrats a candidate to run against Rogers when nobody else wanted to put forth the time. Bob wouldn't have quit on the Democrats in 2010, and he's choosing not to again.

Canady picks up six endorsements
Judicial candidate Clinton Canady III announced last week that he has the endorsements of four Ingham County Circuit judges he hopes to join on the bench.


Judges Rosemarie Aquilina, Laura Baird, George Economy and Richard Garcia are all putting their support toward Canady, who is seeking to replace Ingham County Circuit Judge James Giddings, who is being aged out of office at the end of the year. Eaton County Circuit Judge Thomas Eveland and Eaton County District Judge Harvey Hoffman also are supporting Canady.


"I am incredibly honored to have the support and endorsements of these judges who each have distinguished records of serving our community with truth, honesty, integrity and wisdom on the bench," Canady said.


(Kyle Melinn is news editor of MIRS. E-mail melinn@lansingcitypulse.com.)



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